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Casting Commentary

Sam Heughan and Friend at Outlanderworld

Sam Heughan and Friend at Outlanderworld

Goodness, can’t leave you lot to your own devices for long, can I? [g] Given the amount of traffic I see in the stats for this blog and my Facebook page, I conclude that the Casting Wars are still boiling along.

Well. Look.

1) People are entitled to their own opinions. Naturally, I’d prefer these opinions to be expressed—and received—civilly, but up to you, of course. I believe in the virtues of free discourse.

2) I—of course—am likewise entitled to an opinion. [cough]

Now, my opinion is based on rather more information than most others expressed here, because

a) I created Jamie Fraser and thus—presumably–have a pretty good idea of what he really looks and acts like.

b) While I haven’t yet met Sam Heughan, I’ve seen Rather a Lot of him (about 95%, at a rough guess), both in terms of

a. Photographs, and

b. Film, and

c. Bits and pieces, like audition tapes

Naturally, everyone forms mental images while reading. Everybody. I do it when I read other people’s books, too. Now, I can’t imagine why anyone—having read OUTLANDER—would form an image of Jamie as a 7-foot tall Bozo the clown on steroids, but you know….whatever floats your boat.

Why anyone should expect a film company to a) telepathically extract your personal vision of a character and b) try to replicate that onscreen is one of the Great Mysteries of the Universe, and I’m not about to try to solve it here—I got a book to write, among other things, and there are only so many hours in the day.

So I’m just going to say This about That:

Y’all have not seen Sam Heughan “be” Jamie Fraser.

I _have_.

Now, when they told me who they’d chosen and that they were sending me the audition tapes, I was in the car, driving from Phoenix to Santa Fe with my husband. Unable to get to my computer until we got to Santa Fe, I was madly googling “Sam Heughan” on my iPhone (my husband was driving, I hasten to add).

Frankly, I thought he looked bizarre. He’s 6’3”, that’s fine…very chiseled face, but oddly chiseled, and what’s with the large forehead and cleft chin?!? Jamie doesn’t have a cleft chin and his nose is not all that long, though it _is_ straight…and good grief, I know we wanted somebody who could play a 22-year-old virgin, but this guy hardly looks like he has hair on his behind, let alone the dangly bits…but…


But you know, I _do_ understand what it is that actors do.

(Do you know that, btw? What they do is magic. They can become somebody they aren’t—and their physical outline is just Really Not That Important. (Within limits. Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher is a long way outside those limits…).)

So I sat down at my computer, sort of looking warily through my fingers. Willing to suspend disbelief if I could, but kind of dubious, you know?

So here he is, dark-haired, in a long-sleeved gray T-shirt, and I’m thinking, “Boy, he doesn’t look _anything_ like his IMDB photos, he actually looks pretty human, that’s a relief…”

And five seconds later, Sam Heughan was GONE, and it was Jamie Fraser right there in front of me. True. No costume, no makeup, no props, nothing but cues from an offstage casting director, and…it was him.

He did two scenes. First, a confrontation with Dougal, right after Dougal’s ripped his shirt off in the tavern.

“Devil take ye, Dougal MacKenzie! I dinna owe ye that!” Blazing blue eyes, swelling shoulders, and…bam. Showed this small bit to a (male) friend recently, who blinked at the screen and said, “Man, he’s powerful!” He was.

Second scene was even better; it’s the scene where Jamie explains to Claire exactly why he’s about to punish her. [g] And he had it all: patience, seriousness, annoyance, patience, humor, menace, humor, and…enough sex to drop anyone with functioning ovaries in their tracks.

Now. In the months since then, the production people have been kind enough to show me the occasional glimpse of this or that. I _have_ seen the red hair in its full glory (it took seven tries—and 27 hours in a salon chair, I was told by the victim), and speaking as someone married to a red-head (himself Jamie’s original body model) and with two more in residence…it’s definitely the right kind of red.

Red hair—as I notice a few red-heads have been mentioning—looks Way Different, depending on the light. Unless it’s truly carroty (and Jamie’s is Definitely Not), sometimes it looks almost brown, sometimes it’s red-gold and sometimes it’s all different colors and sometimes it has almost-blond highlights and sometimes…well, let’s put it this way: it doesn’t look like Bozo the clown or Shamus the Wrestler, it looks like Real Hair, just red. (And if you really worry about this, do go and google “red deer images” and _see_ what the heck a red deer’s pelt looks like.)

But beyond the physical details (which are, um…Really Good, and decency prevents me going further, save to say that while Jamie certainly doesn’t look like Thor (gag me with a spoon), he—and Mr. Heughan—look Very Nicely Muscled indeed)….Sam Heughan can _act_. And he totally nailed it.

So. Feel perfectly free to express your own opinions. (I don’t know quite what people expect as a result. Surely they don’t figure that Starz will say, “Oh, no! Robyn MacGillicuddy Stimson thinks Chris Hemsworth should be Jamie! Get Hemsworth’s agent on the phone!” Or at least I hope they don’t think that…) You’ll change your mind in due course.

Or I’ll pay you a dollar. [g]

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377 Responses »

  1. Been a huge Outlander fan for over 20 years….I, like most readers, had a Jamie in my mind…
    After watching the first eight episodes, I am entranced. Sam Heughan IS Jamie Fraser. Better than my imagination… (and I have a great one! LOL)

    Cheers to Diana and Sam.

  2. Diana, I am Canadian fan who is so enjoying the TV series. The casting of the characters is spot on. There is such wonderful chemistry between Sam and Catriona – Oh my that Wedding episode which just aired this weekend in Canada. WoW!! Be still my beating heart ( This is from a grandmother!)

    I must commend everyone involved for letting the story unfold in a natural and unhurried way. Everything from the use of the Scottish scenery, the sets, food and costumes is so well done. It was very much worth the wait. Looking forward to many more episodes.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone involved and mostly to you Diana for creating something magical for all of us to enjoy.

  3. Hi!
    I want to tell you that I have loved reading your books, going so far at 4.
    Regarding the TV series and the casting’m totally under the acting of Sam and Cait, I think you all!
    View as faithfully portrayed Jamie is the screen is a dream come true for many of your fans. I recently was part of them but no, I’m less thankful for the creation of this man who in his great humanity imperfecion’ve won my heart dethroned Mr Darcy of Pemberley was number 1 on my list of loves literary.

    Happy Thursday to you Diana.

    PS: Ever can see the video of the Casting of Sam, would be a dream, I have a couple of friends who would go crazy with it!

  4. I think he is PERFECT! I’ve never been partial to red heads….wow…he looks better red!!

  5. I read “Outlander” and had to have the next book immediately upon finishing the next one, and even pre-ordered “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood”. You are such an excellent writer! I am a voracious reader, usually historical fiction, and this series is that and so much more. I lose consciousness of myself in your novels and am transported to the Outlander world of characters and times that you’ve created so well. The Starz series is wonderful, Sam Heughan as Jamie, mesmerizing as he should be. At first, Catriona was not as I envisioned physically, more voluptous in my imagination, however her characterization grew on me and she’s terrific, as is all the cast. I am in awe of your talent and just wanted to express by gratitude for these extraordinary books and the television series.

  6. I watched Outlander with my sister and was truly entertained. The story was rich and vivid that I immediately bought the first book. Your stories are so wonderful that I find myself staying up half the night reading and have a difficult time putting them down. I am on your second novel I just can’t wait to see what comes next. Thank you so much for writing such an incredible and engaging story. I must that Sam Heughan is Jamie personified.

  7. I’ll throw in my two cents and if you don’t like it you can go ahead and keep the change. I love Sam Heughan as Jamie. But I have a suggestion for Roger. How about singer Josh Krajcik? After all we need someone with a voice. Curly dark hair. Look him up.

  8. Well what can I say………… Fanbloodytastic! I was not sure the first episode re Jamie and Clare BUT by the end of that episode I was sold. He is just too Yummy for words and she is a delight. I’m 61 will I live long enough to see this series to the end? going to take a while……cant wait for next series……. Thanks.

  9. “I don’t know … It seems like … too much of a pandering to viewers’ expectations. I didn’t find the episode as good as I had expected.”

    “Well, men in that time had to wield very heavy weapons. And all that horse riding is actually a strenuous workout, too, you know. So it is quite possible they had such bulging muscles – they needed them.”

    “Oh, the weapons and the horses, yes – but it’s only Jamie that seems to be made solely of muscles. All the other men look more real, didn’t you notice?”

    “It was a bit of ‘Look! At! Me!’, yes, but possibly less unrealistic than you think.”

    “Hmm.” I tell my husband, “Don’t know. I do like Sam Heughan a lot, but the Wedding episode seemed to be built around his muscles. Don’t know why that disturbed me so much, but it did. Nice ass though.”

  10. Having read all eight books and having seen the first eight episodes of Outlander, I can say that I believe this is the best casted adaptation I’ve ever seen, bar none! Caitriona Balfe & Sam Heughan ARE Claire & Jamie!

  11. Sooooo, at the risk of becoming FanGirl at my (rather advanced) age, just wanted to say that I could not agree more that this is absolutely the best casted adaptation, EVER … I truly thought nothing could or would ever equal the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries, but to my astonishment, this is even better … Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are utterly breathtaking as Claire and Jamie … absolute perfection, really, and I’m not just talking about Sam’s derriere, although that is pretty spectacular, I have to say, along with the rest of his anatomy … series is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen on any screen, big or small, and it just keeps getting better … gorgeously filmed, thoughtfully scripted, brilliantly directed (The Wedding could not have been more sensitively or beautifully done), luxuriantly textured … and the music — completely enchanting … seriously can’t say enough good things about it … All of the cast and crew (and Ms. Gabaldon, of course!) deserve kudos for their incredible work; can hardly wait for the rest of Season 1, am overjoyed there will be more to come … and thank God for DVR, so we can keep watching it during Droughtlander (love that term!) … In the meantime, am reading (and rereading) all the books!!

  12. I love the description above and when I watched the show on Starz, I thought Sam did a fine job of ‘being Jamie!’ I think he does a superb job with the subtle parts of building the relationship with Claire and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous to look at. Though honestly, I find myself most enthralled with the way he demonstrates Jamie’s wit, humor, intelligence and strength. I read an article about how Sam went out and read the book and delivered a powerful audition (as you mentioned above) and I have to say…anyone dedicated enough to go 27 hours in a salon chair to achieve ‘Jamie Red” AND give a powerful and believable performance after reading the book for the first time is not only serious about getting it right but is definitely the right person in my humble opinion.

  13. Diana, I read the excerpt from #9 that you posted regarding William talking about Manoke, his father’s friend/helper/ ? and I wondered if William is going to find out that Lord John is homosexual. I’ve read (several times) all of the books. Also, I love the fact that there are no subtitles in the TV show, but I was wondering what it is that Leticia says to Colum at the start of the Gathering?

  14. Interesting casting. I hope I can access the TV show in Alaska. If I can, I may turn on my TV for the first time in 2 years. I suspect my computer is not getting the coloring right, because Sam’s hair is not red on my screen. I am familiar with red hair since I am redheaded. His body is good (like you, Diana, my husband was a very powerful man and my “body image” for Jamie) his face is a bit “pretty”, but I think I can get used to it. Even though I’m almost 80, Sam as Jamie does set my hormones to rattling. (If it’s any comfort, only our bodies age. Our minds seem to stay young – some younger than others, though :-))

    I first began reading the series many years ago when I realized it was set in the very area of Scotland where my ancestors came from. It got me started doing genealogy (a fun hobby) and I appreciate the research that has gone into making the history so accurate. I have regretted the series’ occasional lapses into ultra descriptive sex scenes, especially those connecting sex and violence. It has usually kept me from recommending this series, and especially from sharing it with my grandchildren.

    I admire your writing skill, and have enjoyed trying to keep the threads of your timelines unraveled. I look forward to resuming my journey through time with Claire and Jamie.

    • Linda,
      Just don’t want you to worry too much about Jamie’s hair color on screen, as it is pretty dark red. They don’t seem to have it as described in the book–with a lot of gold, etc. it seems reddish with a lot of brown.

      I have seen pictures of Sam Heughan with several different colors of hair, and sometimes it looks like that beautiful red in a random picture, but it doesn’t seem to on the show. I think they are missing out on an opportunity to make us all go nuts over his hair by making it more natural looking and REDDER!

  15. I just realized Jenny is Claire’s pseudo-mom-in-law. She really goes too far in Voyager. If I were Claire,b I would have really given a piece of my mind. I would also have a few words with the 2nd Mrs. Fraser and the words would not have been kind. Talk about marrying below one’s station in life…

  16. I for one took a chance on the tv series out of boredom and knew nothing about the books. along the way i found myself attracted to jamies character because he was a real gentlemen a funny one too, very respectful and mysterious in his own way. And became very intrigued with each character and how they all connect. But i thank you diana i am on my way to reading the books while i await for season 2 and get myself up to date with everyone else. If some of you are complaining about sam not fitting the role we all have our own vision when we conjure up jamie fraser when you read the books but by the looks of it sam did a fine job bringing out his character.

  17. Dear Diana

    Thank you for your creative and thoroughly researched novels. I read the first in this series in the first week of January this year at the instigation of my daughter. I have just finished book 8. I have loved every minute of this world, especially the Scottish history and locations as I travelled in the Scottish highlands last summer. Your characters glow and are so thoroughly drawn that their responses are predictable, eg Jamie and Lord John Grey’s confrontation over Claire is hilarious, a short scene with little spoken but huge sub-text. Even their physicality is clear.

    I take your point about casting for the Tv series, but I shall not see that unless I buy a DVD set later. It is not shown in Australia except on pay TV, owned by an unconscionable manipulator called Murdoch. Most Aussies do not pay for that connection.

    As for the film, I am a big Hemsworth fan but there are others, including the fabulous Kevin McKidd (who at 42 May not get away with the young Jamie but looks just right). Brianna and Roger, all the bairns and Jennie will also be big decisions.

    What a great adventure. Thank you.

  18. Please put forth for consideration as Roger…..Matthew Goode, currently on the Good Wife.
    Thank you

  19. I am disappointed by the sex scenes; too graphic/verging on the porno and too many of them. Claire seems to bare her breasts very 10 minutes. Enough! I would have liked to see more on Claire’s adaptation to her circumstances i.e., handling living in a 1700′s castle, reaction to the food she had to eat, bathing, the cold/damp of the castles, etc. More to your book on identifying things to use as medicine. Also it is ridiculous having her run around with her breasts hanging out all the time as that is not the way they dressed then. Bossum (sp?) exposure was more for parties. It is damned cold up there in those castles and they didn’t dress that way (yeah I’ve spent some time in Scotland). Otherwise casting is perfect and story adaptation has been very good. So rare for books to get this good treatment. I can still remember reading your first book when it first came out…couldn’t put it down. Congratulations on keeping some control on what they did with it.


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